Does this statement refer to recent British weather patterns? Government environmental policy decisions? My movements over the last few weeks? Or all of the above? I’ll leave that for you to decide, dear readers. But whichever way you look at it, it’s certainly been a topsy-turvy spring so far. I’ve already spoken about the transition from drought or near-drought to deluge. Now the pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way – the barometer is rising, water levels are falling, the soil is drying out. And, this being England, mutterings are already being heard about how at 26 degrees (about 80, in old money) it is ‘too hot’, whilst the Daily Express trumpets a ‘heat-wave’ all over its front page (of course, we’d expect nothing less from that bastion of sober, accurate reporting…). We’re never so happy as when we have something to complain about.
Over in west Norfolk, where I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday, I saw at least one crop being sprayed from large sprinklers, clearly gasping for water. Which is no surprise, as farmland in ‘the Brecks’, as the area close to Thetford is known, is dry and sandy, and I daresay struggles to hold water, wet April or not. It’s an unusual landscape, with the large, flat fields surrounded by shelter belts of deep green pine trees , which give the area something of a continental appearance. It’s quite removed from the English idyll of green hedgerows, rolling fields and winding lanes, but beautiful in a unique way. In fact, I was quite taken with it, especially after a post-pub stone curlew expedition – of which more coming up soon.
Back to that spring – I’ve found myself uncharacteristically busy, so busy in fact that it seems to be rushing past like the unseasonably strong spring breezes of late. I’m managing a mere blog a week (hooray! I hear you cry), I’m behind with Birdtrack submissions, my Bio List spreadsheet is woefully out of date. I wonder if any of our avian visitors or insect residents, to take two broad examples, are experiencing this spring in much the same way? Egg-laying schedules in tatters? Food supplies unreliable and unpredictable? There’s growing evidence to suggest so: certainly in the wildlife sphere as well as that of weather, this is by no stretch of the imagination a ‘normal’ year. Migrant birds have arrived about 7-10 days behind schedule, playing minor havoc with one-season-only surveys such as the BTO’s national nightingale census, which has had to extend its reporting period.
The point I’m winding towards in this all over the place, unfocussed blog, is that nature being all over the place too might mean historians of nature (that’s you and me!) need, conversely, to be more than usually on the ball. Figuring out how wildlife responds to an unusual spring might be crucial in helping it through many more springs to come, whether mundane or extreme. Time to get myself organised!